North Star – Fettercairn 12 year 57.4%

Back in 1829, Fettercairn Distillery was one of the 1st newly licensed distillery in the Highland thanks to Sir Alexander Ramsay. It was sold within the year to the Gladstone family who carried on making whisky along with getting into politics – including William Gladstone who became Prime Minister. Whyte & Mackay acquired the distillery in 1973 with several official bottling and, no surprise, it also became a core part of their blends.

My earlier experience with Fettercairn was a 21 year old bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company. It impressed us with its character and complexity so I was most curious to see what this much younger one bottled by North Star would bring!

Fettercairn 12 year (Oct 2006 / Feb 2019) Refill Barrel 57.4% (North Star 007)

  • Nose – Mash-melon, herbal tea, berries and cream, sweet spice, lemon cream, apples, light and fruity
  • Palate – Spice, betal leaf, citrus, more burn than expected from the nose, cinnamon spice and tobacco leaf, almost heavy and a little bit nutty
  • Finish – There with cinnamon spice

And with water?

  • Nose – Very nice! Apple crumble, cream, drizzle of honey, toffee ice cream, apple blossoms, the berries are back – a bit tart and sweet
  • Palate – Smooth out the burn but also loses a bit of its edge and substance
  • Finish – Back to cinnamon spice

Overall it was a character! I really enjoyed what water did to the aromas and once it settled in, was also an enjoyable way to sip and savour.

What do we know about this dram? It was matured in a refill barrel, un chill filtered, and was 1 of 180 bottles from North Star’s Series 007. I ordered it online directly from the wonderful folks at North Star which made its way from the UK to Nurnberg, Germany. With shipping and tax, it came to approx GBP 74.

And what did Iain Croucher have to say about this Fettercairn? Here are his official tasting notes:

  • Nose – Black tea & gooseberries
  • Palate – Crushed bobal grapes & barley sugars
  • Finish – Hints of disco & funk

What can I say? Another hit from North Star!

What else was part of my North Star latest score?

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North Star – Royal Brackla 11 year 55.2%

I first sampled this North Star bottling of Royal Brackla in Berlin over a year ago at The Union Jack Pub. It left a positive impression of a pleasant, cheerful summery dram and I was curious to give it another go…

Royal Brackla 11 year (Oct 2006 /Feb 2018) 55.2%

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Candied lemon peel, maple sugar, sweet spices, some herbs – particularly basil, give it a bit more time and apples, apricots, loads of sweet fruits, waxy and lightly perfumed
  • Palate – A bright spice, then the fruitiness carries through on the palate with substance, it is a bit oily with a slightly bitter hint that lends a bit of substance to all the orchard fruits
  • Finish – Nicely there… not long and lingering but quite pleasant

And with water? Much more approachable with the cheerful apple quality even more pronounced.

What I remember from our tasting a year ago was this whisky was sunshine and happiness, apples and apricots which carried through on the palate.

What I found most in this revisit? And when I returned a few times to sip again? Frankly I stopped even thinking about dissecting and distinguishing every element and instead just enjoyed – certainly a sign a rather good dram – particularly in the summer!

Bottled in Feb 2018, North Star’s Single Cask Series 004, refill hogshead, one of 272 bottles. I purchased this bottle in May 2020 during our COVID ‘shut-in’ from Sansibar for EUR 49.58 plus 19% tax. In my books, this makes it quite an affordable for an affable whisky.

And here are the fabulous North Star tasting notes:

  • Nose – Cooked apricots, muscovado sugar and flaked almonds
  • Palate – Strong fruit jam, pain au chocolate with bitter chocolate
  • Finish – Patisseries character, with fruits and spice

Any other Royal Brackla encounters?

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North Star Regions – Highland 11 year 50%

Glasgow based independent bottler North Star has a Millennial Series featuring whiskies from Scotland’s four main regions – Highland, Speyside, Islay and Island.

So far I’ve only managed to acquire the Highland and Speyside, together with a Royal Brackla. Whilst I was impatient to try all three, I decided to start with trying the Highland. Though the distillery is not directly stated, the longitude and latitude provided on the bottle brings one to Teaninich distillery in Alness (N 57° 41’30.35″ by W 4° 15’28.75′).

Now part of the Diageo stable, Teaninich was built in 1817 by blind Captain Hugh Munro on his estate of Teaninich Castle. After changing hands several times, by 1904 Robert Innes Cameron took charge, adding it to his interests in Benrinnes, Linkwood and Tamdhu. It was then sold to Scottish Malt Distillers and expanded in 1970 with both a new building and stills. By 1984, operations were halted then resumed in 1991 with Diageo renovating the distillery fully in 2013.

One unique feature of Teaninich distillery is use of a mash filter press rather than mash tun. Whilst more expensive, requiring more maintenance and space, this method is considered more efficient, able to process “challenging” grains like rye and results in a clear higher gravity wort which contributes to a spirit with limited cereal notes.

I will admit this was my first introduction to Teaninich – which is no surprise given it is used for blends with only a limited 10 year Flora and Fauna bottling and a 200th anniversary 17 year officially available. 

Highland 11 year 50% 

  • Colour – Light golden hay
  • Nose – Subtle, leafy, reminding me of an herbal tea, fresh apples, then shifts into a light vanilla sponge cake, a bit of milk chocolate
  • Palate – Spice, a nice earthy quality, sweet and sour – caramel and cookies side by side with a bit of tangy citrus. There is also a metallic quality – like sipping from a copper vessel
  • Finish – There but unremarkable
  • Water – Absolutely recommended, making it even more amiable and approachable – in a good way.

Overall it is an easy drinking dram – uncomplicated, fresh yet with substance – when sipped with a very generous dollop of water! I must confess I enjoy it most with almost 1/3 cold water.

What more do we know? Only that it was from a single refill sherry butt with 600 bottles produced.

Rather than tasting notes, the North Star team share the following quote from Aedan Andrejus Burt:

The first thing you need to know about the Highlands: they are vast. The Highland Line came about on whisky maps for tax reasons in 1784, when customs duties were set lower in the Highlands to encourage local farmers to register their stills. It didn’t work. But it has given us a range of incredible whiskies to drink. The Highland style is often heaver and slightly spicier than Speyside, but still sweet. Peat may feature, as some distilleries maintain older practices, but there is no one representative whisky for the Highlands. Like Scotland itself, embrace the diversity.

I miss the fabulous North Star tasting notes, however Master of Malt has this to say:

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Hay, greengages, a whiff of peat swiftly enveloped by coffee-dipped pastries.
  • Palate: Orange peel, caramel and almond. Still slightly grassy at points. A flinty touch or two here and there.
  • Finish: Grist, apricot and milk chocolate.

I purchased this bottle in May 2020 during our COVID ‘shut-in’ from Sansibar for EUR 37.82 plus 19% tax. There is zero doubt this is a value for money dram!

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North Star Series 8 – Inchgower 11 year 52.5%

The minis can’t have all the fun in virtual tastings! It was time to also crack open one of the big boys! And that is exactly what happened one fine eve with the Bombay Malt &Cigar gentlemen. What did they have? It was a revisit of standard bar fare with Bowmore 12 year, Caol Ila 12 year with a Mortlach thrown in for good measure.

As for me? I let them decide… and here is what they picked!

Inchgower 11 year (July 2007 / Mar 2019) Refill Hogshead 52.5% (North Star 008)

  • Nose – It started with light peat, caramel and spice, leaves
  • Palate – First sip was bursting with lots of pepper, spice and fire… then it opened up to reveal treacle and maple syrup
  • Finish – The finish was like chomping down on a cigar with a leather chaser

Something about this one clearly called for some water… and no careful 2-3 drops but a generous dollop. What did this do? Transformed the Inchgower!

  • Nose – That caramel cola quality came through even more, sponge cake
  • Palate – Lots of cinnamon spice…. with a bit of tart kumquat
  • Finish – Retained the sweet spice

This was no easy drinking dram but one that demanded attention… a bit of an unruly beast… tamed slightly by diluting.

What else do we know? It was matured in a refill hogshead which produced 321 bottles. With shipping and tax, it came to approx GBP 60. Which frankly is quite reasonable for a  cask strength original!

As for Iain Croucher and his delightful tasting notes? Here is what he has to say:

  • Nose – Kola Cubes & pancakes with maple syrup
  • Palate – White pepper & caramel shavings
  • Finish – Tobacco (Montecristo not Marlboro)

Prior to this, my only brushes with Inchgower were 13 year olds bottled by G&MP from their Connoiseurs Choice range – one at cask strength and the other not.

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Minis – Cambus 24 year 52.7%

I will admit I had high hopes for this one – both as it is from North Star and also my last Cambus stood out as my favourite grain yet!

Cambus 24 year (May 1993/Sep 2027) 52.7% (North Star – Series 003)

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Nose – Big old dusty cupboard, fruity yet also sour, some leather reminiscent of a tannery, earthy, dry old leaves – that distinctive neem leaf in particular, sweet dry flowers… started to shift into vanilla toffee, caramel cream
  • Palate – Light yet slightly sharp, a bit piquant, sour fruits, curiously “slim”
  • Finish – Negligible
  • Water – Softens the grain on the tongue, making it milder… settled into cured leather with toffee cream, a bit of an odd combination

We set it aside for a bit and returned to find the sulfur of matchsticks with sweet cinnamon! It wasn’t bad but it didn’t exactly rock our boat.

Though we originally tasted the Cambus in February 2020, there was a bit remaining which I revisited in May. What did I find? The sour fruits were quite pronounced on the nose, however the sharpness we found earlier was gone, replaced with sweetness that became quite tasty on the palate. Not a bad way to finish the last few drops!

What do the folks at North Star have to say?

  • Nose: Cinnamon & warmed cloves
  • Palate: Buttered toffee and shortbread
  • Finish: Sweet rum & raisin

What more do we know? Only that it was bottled from a refill Pedro Ximenez sherry butt.

Here are a few others I tried from my advent calendar minis:

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North Star Spirits Series 5, Regions 5, Bottles 5

Once a year, two of our Mumbai whisky groups come together to celebrate our mutual passion for a fine dram. This time, I selected the whiskies – ordered online and brought in by another member for our sampling pleasure. I was inspired by an earlier introduction to North Star Spirits and honed in on their series 5, tending towards the more affordable options available with a nice cross-section from different regions.

While the Whisky Ladies sponsored the whiskies, the gents hosted our evening in a gorgeous South Mumbai home with a most civilized sit down tasting followed by a brilliantly paired dinner. To put it mildly, the bar was set high!

And did the whiskies deliver? Read on to discover…

Our 5 Region North Star Spirits cask strength quintet from Cask Series 005 included:

Each was distinctive, unique and completely worth trying!

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North Star’s Caol Ila 12 year (2006/2018) 54.6%

Our final North Star Series 5 whisky was from the Islay region with a Caol Ila whisky. While it was the last, it was an entirely appropriate tasting order with this peaty robust dram coming after some lighter, flirtatious whiskies.

Here is what we discovered with the North Star Cask Series 005 Caol Ila…

Caol Ila 12 year (April 2006/May 2018) 54.6%

  • Nose – Hello peat! Sweaty, yheasty, medicinal… quite ‘wintry’, pine nuts, spirit of “peat fun”, some salt, kept evolving with the peat much less pronounced, giving way to other aromas, green asparagus, young potato starch, burnt maple bacon, sweet citrus, lightly smoky sweet grass, burnt sugar, sour cherry
  • Palate – Proper peat, some spice and everything nice. Crêpe Suzette with cherry liquor flambé, perhaps with a touch of citrus too
  • Finish – Green chilli and wasabi, sweet grapes

For those of a peatier persuasion, quite enjoyed this one. The bottle shared a few more details – noting the Caol Ila was bottled from a refill hogshead, un-chill filtered and natural colour.

As for what Iain Croucher had to say about it in his North Star’s tasting notes?

  • Nose: An Oligarch’s humidor… a big dusty one
  • Palate: A peated Sherbet Lemon, doubled-dunted with a peated Soor Ploom
  • Finish: Reminds me of well-seasoned hardwood burning near a new carpet… all subjective of course

Now I must share, we had the most hilarious response and commentary on this one – thoroughly enjoying the reading of the tasting notes… including having to look up what exactly is a “Soor Ploom.”

In case you are curious, a “Soor Ploom” according to Wikipedia is

a sharp flavoured, round, green boiled sweet originally associated with GalashielsScotland.

A “childhood favourite,”[3] they are pale green and “slightly acid in flavour”.[2]

Overall it was terrific having a chance to try such distinctive drams – well worth exploring.

For those curious about cost, this whisky was purchased online in July 2018 from Master of Malt for £76.36 / USD 100 / INR 7,215 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Or check out the Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

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North Star’s Orkney 12 year (2006/2018) 57.8%

Our 5 region tour of North Star’s series 5 continued with a whisky from the Islands.

(www.tripfolk.com)
http://www.tripfolk.com

This time our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai guest reviewer is Shruti Sutwala… 

A marketer by profession, Shruti brings her passion to travel across through her travel blog MeWanderlost. She divides time between creating brands, travelling to distant corners of the world & inspiring many to experience the world. 

Given that Shruti travels extensively (plus has a partner who shares her whisky explorations), she has blessed us with equally adventurous  whiskies from AustraliaBhutan, FranceIceland, Japan and US.

Here is what she has to say about the North Star Cask Series 005 Islands offering…

North Star Orkney 12 year (March 2006/May 2018) 57.8% is a great example of the trend of “secret bottling” by an independent bottler.

It’s secret because all we know about it is that it comes from Orkney and that it’s bottled from a refilled bourbon hogshead. Well, the Orkney is so small that the secret is really not a big one, it has to be one of the two big ones on the island!

It’s rare because independent bottling is all about small batch production – we tasted the Cask Series 005, 1 of 362 bottles, and yes, the same one will not be available in the market anymore.

And of course its experimental if the official tasting notes are any indication. Here it goes – on the palate it’s supposed to be ‘Melted Normandy salted butter poured over popcorn’ & on the finish Clover-honey on yer toast”. That’s experimental for sure!

  • Nose: The nose definitely connects to the island origin of this dram – it has strong sea salt & sea weed notes followed with some fruitiness. It feels quite young in the beginning, however develops subtle smokiness & butter notes, a perfect invitation to sip it along.
  • Palate: The peat on the nose doesn’t disappoint as you sip it along as it develops a nice caramel toffee sweetness. What stood out for me was a nice buttery coating on my palate which reminded me of the butter whisky I had in Scotland. Notes of burnt caramel, pipe tobacco, vanilla & a touch of spice with the subtle smokiness is just lovely!
  • Finish: After the mélange of notes on the palate, the finish was a little flat for me. Some comments around the table were “flat ginger ale” and “bitter”.

Adding a few drops of water made it more approachable for a few, however for me it lost the nice chewy and buttery character with the water.

Summing it up, it’s a solid dram which is nicely matured & balanced & at the same time not so serious. With the Orkney, the bottlers have clearly made a statement that whisky can be fun & experimental, yet well rounded. It would be a great addition to any collection, pity, there are so few of them in the market. A clear vote winner, this one was polished off in the post tasting session!

For those curious about cost, this whisky was purchased online in July 2018 from Master of Malt for £53.76 / USD 70 / INR 5,080 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery

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North Star’s Macduff 11 year (2006/2018) 55.2%

From the Highland region, our next North Star Series 5 exploring 5 regions in Scotland was from the Mac Duff distillery, best known for their Glen Deveron brand.

Our guest reviewer Rekha Sharma has been part of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai from the start.

Having lived a fairly nomadic existence since a young age, Rekha gained over two decades of varied corporate & entrepreneurial experience.

From cable media industry in Hongkong with Disney Challen then Turner Networks (CNN), she then moved to New York where she founded & managed a retail business in Manhattan, combining an Asian antique store with an art gallery & a cafe/bar.

Now living in India, Rekha manages a serviced apartments business in Bombay,  being a part of a rapidly changing economic & social landscape that is India today.

Above all, Rekha enjoys the arts, cooking, interior design, travelling & good whiskey!

Here is what she has to say…

Macduff 11 year (Nov 2006/May 2018) 55.2%

  • Nose – Dish water soap, very light, flowers, flirting with us by running away then gently re-appearing, red delicious apple, balsa wood and some lovely ripe bananas
  • Palate – Peach, apricots, metallic, almost eggy, liquorice
  • Finish – Bitter walnut, big red chewing gum
  • Water – Much better! Really brings out more with this one and gave it a somewhat sweet, creamy finish

It was a friendly easy drinking dram and hard to imagine it was cask strength!

The North Star Macduff was bottled from a refill bourbon hogshead, un-chill filtered, natural colour with only 240  bottles.

North Star’s tasting notes:

  • Nose: Red apple & that smell you get when rain hits hot tar macadam
  • Palate: Instantly creamy & sweet, like my mum’s custard
  • Finish: The crispy topping on a creme brûlée 

This whisky was purchased online from Master of Malt in August 2018 for £53.76 / USD 70 / INR 5,080 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

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North Star’s Campbeltown 4 year (2014/2018) 57%

Next in our North Star Series 005 quintet was a whisky from Campbeltown, which was reviewed by fellow Canadian Paula McGlynn.

Paula McGlynn is a CEO and Founding Director of Gulbadan Talkies and Bharatiya Digital Party (BhaDiPa). BhaDiPa is the pioneer of Marathi digital content, starting with its hit series “Casting Couch with Amey & Nipun” in 2016, and recently revived the Marathi Stand-Up comedy scene, now managing over 15 comic artists. BhaDiPa now has 3 channels under it’s brand, including Bha2Pa (Travel) and Vishay Khol (Politics and Infotainment). BhaDiPa recently received the Zee Talkies Marathi Comedy award for “Best Web Series”, and currently has over 80 million views and over 800K subscribers.

Entrepreneur, producer, actress, script writer… Paula will track down a new whisky experiment from Canada or the US, take an hour off from a film shoot in Goa to pop over to Paul John distillery for a tour (plus collect a coveted bottle of Peated) or drop by WhiskyLive when in South Africa… just because… whisky!

You can also check out her #daarudiscoveries on Instagram at Dev_Paula

Here is what Paula has to say about the Campbeltown…

North Star Series 005 – Campbeltown, 4 yrs, 57.4%
  • Blended Malt (blend of 2 casks) – Distillery Unknown
  • Bottled from a refill bourbon hogshead, un-chill filtered, natural colour.
  • Item no longer available for purchase

The second in an impressive-looking line up of North Star whiskies was a bit of a surprise – a 4 year old blend, cask-strength bottle (uh-oh) 57.4%!

The Campbeltown immediately drew a few raised eyebrows, and when assigning review-duties to the whisky ladies Carissa warned me to be ‘gentle’ considering its youth.

Upon opening, the first few whiffs led to a few remarks around the table about nail varnish and alcohol fumes… reaffirming our concern that this whisky needed some more time with the wood before bottling.

However, much to everyone’s surprise there started to appear notes of honeycomb, cream, vanilla, and those small, sweet and tart mandarin oranges!

Upon first sip, we were all pleasantly surprised to discover a delightfully light and fruity palate echoing the nose – honey, oranges, ginger, and an orange-maple liqueur quality.

Ending with a mid-length finish (again, a nice surprise), we drew further floral notes of lavender, aromatic bitters, salt, and some lingering orange sweetness.

After sampling a few more whiskies, we returned to this one to find the nose had shifted to a delicious butterscotch, while the palate remained much the same as before.

With a few drops of water, it brought out a lot more hard spices like cloves and ginger, and lost some of the more delicate floral notes. Still, not a bad trade-off depending on your mood!

Campbeltown 4 year (Apr 2014/May 2018) 57%

  • Nose: sweet mandarin orange, honeycomb, floral, cream, vanilla, and sprite! (later butterscotch)
  • Palate: honey, oranges, spice, ginger, orange-maple liqueur
  • Finish: mid-long, bitters, lavender, light sugar-water sweetness, salt, and some lingering orange flavour

The official tasting notes remark on something most of us had never tried… ‘oddfellows aromatic sweeties.’ I did a quick Google and turned up an image of some chalky-looking sweets of mixed colors… I felt it must have been somewhat accurate as mixed fruit, floral, and citrus flavors coming together in a heady-sweet mix from being mixed around in a paper bag. (the image source was named Scottish Retro Sweets)

I really really loved this whisky, not just because it was unique to find such a light summery orange element in a whisky, but the pure surprise element of this depth and complexity coming from a 4-year old whisky. It’s like the underdog story, distilled and bottled… everyone loves it!

North Star’s official tasting notes:

  • Nose: Lemon citrus & cut-grass. Oddfellows aromatic sweeties
  • Palate: Gingerbread & a lovely clementine
  • Finish: Super summer fruit with a touch of sea salt

Carissa asked the folks at North Star for more insight and this is what Ciara Hepburn had to say:

The Campbeltown in Series 005 was a blended malt, and unfortunately they do not give us information as to what the whisky is made up of. I love bringing this bottle to my tastings as there is usually a few dinosaurs in the room that cannot believe this is only a 4 year old!

We couldn’t agree more! It was a hit and great reminder that terrific whisky can be crafted with just a few years.

For those curious what we paid (before it disappeared from online shelves!), this whisky was purchased from Master of Malt in August 2018 for £37.40 / USD 50 / INR 3,600 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

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